I have been blogging and video blogging since 2006. That is when I began my first and now defunct, blog about life in South Korea. While in Korea I began video blogging on You Tube. Four years and change later, I’m still making videos and writing blogs about my experiences overseas, as a teacher, runner, lover of the outdoors and parent. Obviously, if you read this blog, you know that I live in Japan. For that simple reason alone, there are many people attracted to what I have to say and show. I would love to say that all of my You Tube subscribers and blog readers follow me simply because I’m charming and have so many wise bits of knowledge to impart, but I realize that for many, the fact that I talk about Japan and Korea from time to time is why you are here.
Between all of the people who watch me on You Tube (close to 20,000 on my two channels combined) and the awesome people who take the time to read my blog, I get a lot of questions about life in Japan and Korea. Many of them are from people, who for various reason, would really love to come to Asia to work and live life. Some questions are very intelligent. Some are very insightful, some are awkward and some are just plain ridiculous.
Today, I was watching several of my good social media friends having a debate about this topic online. These are some cool people who are successful in various careers here in Japan. They are foreigners who came to Japan, worked very hard and are now enjoying various degrees of success. They are the kind of folk who many out there, aspiring to come to Japan want to emulate. Like anywhere, in Japan, if you want to be successful, you must work hard and often have a strong skill-set, and of course, build up a network.
There is no magic spell or trick to becoming a success here in Japan. During my almost three years here (not a long time), I have met a few very successful foreigners. All of them had some specific talent that got them where they were.
If you are interested in coming to Japan, great! Japan is a wonderful place that many fall in love with. It has a rich culture, cuisine and history. It is easy to see why so many are attracted to the place. If you do ant to come here though, you need some sort of plan. Many people say to me, “I just want to come to Japan cause it’s so amazing. I’m young, have no education, language abilities or skill-set, but I must get to Japan ASAP!” All I can do is shake my head when I hear that sort of talk. If you do want to come here and you are truly serious about it, you can’t just expect success to bite you in the ass because you are a gaijin (foreigner). You have to make a serious plan and work hard at it. Even then, there are no guarantees.
I don’t know as much as some, but I can share a few little tidbits of knowledge about coming to Japan (note that a level of sarcasm may at times be used!):
1. Get a job with a large non-Japanese company that has foreign offices in Japan. If you work for a big company (insurance, tech, banking) maybe you can get transferred to a Japanese office!
2. If you have a university degree, get a job as an English teacher. This can be at times tough (especially in Tokyo…..a lot of competition) since the English language market is continually shrinking, but it is indeed doable.
3. Come to Japan as a language student. If you sign up to study at a Japanese language school you can get a student visa. With a student visa you can work up to 20 hours a week. While you are here, you might be able to lay the groundwork for a job that will supply you with a working visa once your student visa is finished!
4. If you are an amazing musician you might be able to audition for some sort of hotel gig!
5. If you are an amazing skier/snowboarder, there are jobs in the ski resort areas such as Nagano and in Hokkaido. Many foreigners work at ski resorts during the winter months.
6. Maybe a tech sector job would suit you. Two things though, you will need amazing tech skills and also the ability to speak fluent Japanese. If you don’t have those, chances might not be so good.
7. Are you a professional chef, I’m sure more than few places (fancy hotels) may be looking for a few.
8. You can come to Japan as an exchange student.
9. If you are a credentialed teacher you can work at an international school (competition is stiff though).
10. Marry a Japanese person….boom….instant visa!
I’m not writing this post to be negative. I’m just writing it to be realistic. There are amazing opportunities for so many people who want to come to Japan, but you must set realistic goals. You must also have realistic expectations.
It is not always easy to even get to Japan let alone be successful in Japan. If you want it bad enough though, you can make a plan and work towards your goal. It may take time. It may take a long time, but if you are driven it will happen.
Now, as for the myth that any foreigner can become famous and rich in Japan, that’s exactly what it is, a myth. You become successful here the same way you would in Canada, America, England or any other country. You must work hard, have goals and sometimes, have a little luck.